How to Stop a Dog from Digging Under a Fence: Actionable Guide

how to stop a dog from digging under a fence

A dog digging in a yard is such a typical image for pet dogs. But when it’s in your garden, or your roses are being turned upside down every morning, it can get very, very frustrating.

When trying to figure out how to stop a dog from digging under a fence, it’s important to understand why your dog is doing that, in the first place.

Why Do Dogs Dig?

Dogs trace a lot of their behavior from their ancestors, the wolves. In the wild, dogs and wolves dig to hide their kills and hide their food from other predators. Your dog may often do this with his bones or his toys, especially if you have multiple dogs.

Your dog may also be digging because:

  • He has excess pent up energy.
  • He’s bored and is trying to pass the time.
  • He simply enjoys digging holes in the yard because of the texture of the ground.
  • He’s excited or anxious, or is trying to get your attention.
  • He belongs to a breed that requires additional exercise, such as working dog breeds, or a breed that digs a lot, eg. terriers.
  • He does not have enough toys that keep his attention engaged.
  • He spends a lot of time alone in your yard.
  • He has seen you in the yard when you’re gardening, and is trying to imitate you.
  • You have wild animals in your backyard like moles, squirrels, rodents, etc. and your dog is frustrated while trying to catch them.
  • It’s very hot outside, and your dog wants to lie in the dirt and cool off.

Any of these can be the cause of your dog’s digging. But if your dog ends up in your neighbour’s yard every other day, or on the road, it’s not safe at all. So: how do you keep dogs from digging under fences? Here is how you can find the best dog digging under fence solution for you.

#1 Identify the Cause of the Behavior

How do you stop your dog from digging? If your dog is trying to dig a rat out of its burrow, trying to spot train your dog won’t work. Similarly, if your dog is overheated, he’s going to dig down to the cooler dirt even if you restrain him. This is why it is essential to identify the general causes of your dog’s digging behavior.

For example, if your dog is trying to cool off, providing him with a paddling pool or a cooling mat will solve the problem.

#2 Rule Out Attention Seeking Behavior

If your dog repeats digging behavior the minute you leave him alone again, he may be taking your attention as positive reinforcement to continue his digging. This is one reason you should not punish a dog for digging, because even if you yell at him, he will still consider that ‘attention’. 

#3 Ensure That Your Dog is Tired Out

Depending on the breed of dog that you have, take your dog out for walks two or more times a day. You have to ensure that your dog is tired enough that he will not come home and decide to dig some more in your backyard, to let off some steam. 

This also means that you should make sure your dog interacts with the world around them. On walks and runs, make sure your dog can explore the trail, sniff around, and discover all the natural smells and sounds on his way. This will satisfy his curiosity about his immediate environment as well (and he’s less likely to play scientist with your rose bushes!).

#4 Engage Your Dog’s Intelligence

Most dogs have an intelligence approximately that of a toddler. They enjoy toys that require them to work for a treat, such as puzzle balls, chew toys that need to be worked open, etc.

Dogs benefit vastly from ‘active’ toys. Whether this means that you train him to fetch, or provide him with doggy toys that reload and shoot balls, etc., you have to make sure that your dog has a ‘thinking’ activity as well

#5 Lay The Groundwork in Your Dog’s Training Well

If you have not trained your dog properly to respond to basic commands, training him to stop digging will be extremely difficult.

If necessary, look into taking a training class with your dog or even enrolling him in a doggy training center, where he will be taught basic commands. If that is out of budget, there are plenty of published guidebooks and online resources that you can refer to and train your dog comprehensively.

You have to make sure that your dog recognizes you and your authority as pack leader, as the ‘master’. If he doesn’t, you can tell him to stop all you like, but he’ll just keep digging

#6 Remove The ‘Prey’ From Your Yard.

Dogs like terriers are naturally inclined to hunt. In fact, most terriers are inherently ‘ratters’, that is, they hunt out rodents with a vengeance.

So if your dog is digging dedicatedly in the same spot in your yard, for example, at the root of a tree, or near old burrows near the fence, or along a certain path in your yard, it’s possible that he’s scenting small animals there and trying to hunt them out. If you’re wondering how to stop dogs from digging holes for rats, well, you need to get rid of the rats.

If you suspect that this is the case, try to catch and release or deter the pests in as humane a way as possible. Spraying poison or leaving toxins out is very, very harmful to local wildlife, and you may end up accidentally poisoning neighborhood cats, birds, or even your pet. Not to mention, these toxins may end up sinking into your lawn soil and creating a toxic atmosphere in your own backyard.

#7 Figure Out What’s Scaring or Attracting a Runaway Pet

If your dog keeps trying to escape your house no matter how you try to discourage it, try to establish the cause of his behavior. Is there something in your house that’s scaring him? Is there something outside your house that’s specifically attracting him? Once you know this, you can deter it better.

Some dogs try to dig themselves free when the vacuum comes on, or a stereo is played full volume. Some dogs like herding dogs, try to dig out and run to nearby fields. Sometimes they try to dig out to chase neighborhood kids who are teasing them. Putting up a camera in your yard will make it easier to isolate the reason.

#8 Establish Clear Digging Zones, Where Your Dog Can Dig

Stopping dogs from digging holes isn’t always the best idea. It helps them relieve stress and spend some energy too. If you have space in your yard, delineate a little digging zone where your dog can dig when he wants to. If he digs outside this zone, firmly give him a ‘No dig!’ command and show him back to his area.

Here are some other solutions you can look into:

  • Put up a chain link fence around your yard, that your dog cannot chew out of.
  • Consider having a below-ground fence, so that your dog can’t dig his way out.
  • Leave toys in your backyard that will engage your dog fully, if he has to be left in the yard for a little while.
  • Place rocks around your fence, so that your dog doesn’t dig at the fence directly.
  • Make sure your dog is not overheated.
  • If you have younger dogs, train them from the beginning. If you stop your puppy from digging, he’ll be trained throughout his life.

#9 Get a Quality Fence

If all else fails or if you really want to make sure your dog can’t dig out or run away getting some quality fencing is a good idea. Some fencing that’s out there can be quite poor quality, this can lead to the dogs either breaking through it or even digging under it.

A solid and durable fencing should stop that. Something that is strong and ideally metal should work best. It’s also a good idea to make sure the wiring or fence goes a foot into to ground so this should help prevent your dog from digging under it if he still does try to.

For some quality fencing I recommend some of WireFences dog fences. They are made from steel and are made to last so they are the ideal option for something like this.

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